Di and Viv and Rose and Stan's thoughts
Arnold Wesker's The Kitchen: A souffle that rises all too briefly

Good Grief?

Image Mike Leigh's subtle style and focus on the lives of the ordinary isn't to everyone's taste and Grief at the Cottesloe is very much classic Leigh.

The play was work-shopped and developed without a script with some of his regular collaborators - Lesley Manville and Wendy Nottingham to name two - and only given a title in the last week of rehearsal.

It's a post war drama set in a middle class household where war widow Dorothy (Manville) is living with her soon to be 16-year-old daughter Victoria (Ruby Bentall) and her soon to be retired older brother Edwin (Sam Kelly).

There are the characteristic Leigh moments of silence and banal conversations of everyday life peppered with some more colourful characters, mainly the friends of Dorothy and Edwin who always seem to be on their way to do more interesting things and are generally quite jolly.

It works beautifully to highlight how grief has crippled Dorothy. She goes through the motions but as the play progresses you realise she is just treading water, grasping ever more tightly to routine and completely in denial about her decaying relationship with Victoria.

What I like about Leigh's work is that he can make the ordinary so compelling to watch. Having allowed the actors to develop their own characters he also allows plenty of space for the audience to add their own spin. Certainly there was plenty to discuss afterwards.

There is, however, a 'but' and that is that a few days later and the play seems to have faded in my memory. If I'm looking back over what I've seen in the last few weeks it doesn't jump out. It's an interesting and engaging two hours of theatre (no interval) beautifully acted and produced but just a little bit forgettable.

It's a difficult one to rate but because it did spark a lengthy conversation afterwards it's going to scrape 4 stars.

Grief runs in rep at the Cottesloe until January 2012.


Sam Kelly was in Ready When You Are Mr McGill which Mr W also had a small part in back at the beginning of his career.

There are also a couple of The Hour related second degree connections. Wendy Nottingham was in The Crimson and the White which of course started Romolai Garai and David Horovitch, who plays Edwin's friend Hugh in Grief, was in Life is a Dream with Dominic West.